The number of farms using automatic milking systems has grown substantially over the last several years. From the first on-farm installation in the Netherlands in 1992 to more than 10,000 milking units today, automatic milking is clearly a technology that is here to stay, says Doug Reinemann with the University of Wisconsin Milking Research and Instruction Lab.

“There has been an extraordinary amount of research conducted on the topic of automatic milking systems,” Reinemann told audience members at World Dairy Expo Thursday, as he walked through the latest research.

Research on animal welfare shows that milking in an automatic milking system rather than a traditional parlor does not seriously impair the welfare of dairy cows. “From my personal view point, cows prefer robotic milking over conventional systems,” notes Reinemann. “The cows in the free stall are much calmer.”

And while automated milking systems are generally more expensive than conventional in the future that could change. “In the future efficiency is certainly going to improve and technology will level the field,” says Reinemann.

Reinemann does note that the development of sensors and systems to divert abnormal milk is still a challenge. But, he says technologies are sufficient for motivated producers to achieve excellent quality milk.